Some of the questions answered below
Parts of the Flute
The top part of all flutes, this is the piece that flautists blow into to create the sound. Often made of solid silver, the material used impacts the sound greatly, deciding the overall character of the tone. As well, the headjoint features the tuning cork which is used to further adjust the intonation of the flute.
Containing most keys, the center piece is the biggest part of every flute.
Also containing several keys, the footjoint is the shortest part of the flute. The standard student foot is a C foot, while you'll find a B foot on most intermediate and professional models.
Crafted specifically with first-time players in mind, these flutes are constructed to help guide students while endorse good playing practices. Usually these flutes feature a nickel construction with silver-plated plateau keys, as well as an offset G and a C footjoint. Some teachers will even request an open-hole flute or a flute with the split-E design.
When a flautist is ready to move up to the next level, they typically upgrade to intermediate flutes which are crafted to help advance their skills even further. Often referred to as "performance," "step-up," or "conservatory" flutes, these instruments usually have a solid silver headjoint and either a solid silver or silver-plated body and footjoint. Also, intermediate flutes frequently have a B footjoint, as well as open-hole keys with "inline" G keys, although "offset" G keys are becoming more popular.
Designed and constructed with professional musicians in mind, professional flutes are high-end instruments made with fine materials and detailed craftsmanship. Generally, professional flutes are crafted with open holes and solid (sterling) silver head, body, and foot joints. Many professional flutes are handmade to very tight tolerances for maximum performance.
Extremely durable and used because it resists dents, this material still produces a beautiful tone, making it perfect for the beginner flute player. Usually paired with silver-plating, nickel silver is even used on some intermediate flute keys giving it a more sturdy construction without weighing it down.
Solid (Sterling) Silver
With a warm, dark, focused tone and a clean response, solid silver is heavier than nickel silver making it the preferred choice for intermediate and professional flautists. One thing to note, solid silver also requires greater handling to prevent tarnishing and to keep it in top playing condition, so it's not suited for novice players that may not be as careful.
Mostly found on student flutes, nickel is extremely durable and is easy to look after. And because it's lighter in weight than most other materials, it produced a much brighter sound. It's also a great alternative for those allergic to silver.
Darkening the sound with its heavier weight, and adding a beautifully lustrous finish to the appearance, almost all flutes are silver-plated.
If you aren't interested in nickel, gold is a fantastic, elegant alternative. Gold also provides added traction for the bottom lip, helping newer musicians with fast passages. With a colorful and warm tone, as well as a versatile range, gold is also the preferred choice for many professional musicians.
Key Positioning Options
Most used on student flutes, plateau-style keys are designed for those looking for less involved fingering techniques. As well, plateau flutes are usually crafted with an "offset" G key in order to create a more natural feel for beginners.
Also referred to as the "open-hole" model, French keys are distinctly designed with open holes in five of the center keys. This allows for better intonation and encourages proper finger placement on the keys which helps improve the players overall technique.
French keys also allow advancing and professional players to use more alternate fingerings to help facilitate complicated passages. In addition, many contemporary music techniques such as multiphonics, quarter tones, and glissandos require “open-hole” or French keys.
Offset or Inline G
The G key is played with the third finger of the players left hand. If that finger is significantly shorter than their pointer finger, then they will likely be more comfortable with an “offset” G. Inline G keys are traditionally found on intermediate or professional level flutes. However, due to the overall ergonomic benefit, the “offset” G is becoming a more popular choice. There is no notable sound difference between the” inline” or “offset” G. However it is important to note that the Split-E feature is only available with “offset” G model flutes.
French/Pointed or "Y" Arms
If you're searching for sturdiness in your flute's arms, "Y" arms are the preferred choice. On the other hand, if you're more interested in key placement, fluidity and pad sealing, you'll appreciate the French or pointed arms.
This enhances intonation and provides quicker response of the high E, a note which creates problems on most flutes.
Embouchure (Lip) Plate
With a variety of shapes and sizes, every flautist prefers something different so finding one that's comfortable for you is extremely beneficial.
Alternatively known as the "chimney", this piece connects the lip plate and the head. The weight directly affects the tone, with heavier materials producing a darker sound.
Made to hold the keys in place when not in use, stainless steel is the most widely used material because of its long-lasting durability. If you're an advanced flautist though, you may prefer the more delicate feel of white gold.